JLF Research Archive
Showing items 426 to 450 of 496
In recent months, public officials have made a range of statements in an attempt to explain persistent state and local budget woes. Many of these assertions do not square with the facts. A collection of graphs and tables shows clearly that North Carolina government is out of line with neighboring states in spending, employment, and taxes. Moreover, revenue growth outpaced personal income growth during the 1990s, while debt service costs are projected to triple over 10 years.
A 2002 survey of North Carolina’s most politically active business executives found that they did not necessarily agree with the current direction of public policy in the state. Business leaders from every region answered questions about fiscal policy, education, transportation, tax rates, regulation, and ways to improve economic competitiveness. They disagreed strongly with legislative decisions to raise taxes.
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association alleges a significant increase in lung cancer risk for those exposed to high-levels of particulate matter, commonly called soot. In North Carolina, the news media and others have cited the study to boost support for the proposed Clean Smokestacks bill. But according to expert analysis, the study is so flawed that it should have been rejected by the journal. Moreover, it does not establish a case for new regulation.
To date, debate over the proposed Clean Smokestacks bill has focused primarily on the purported air-quality benefits, which would be negligible. Little attention has been paid to the cost, which could be substantial given North Carolina's already high electricity and tax rates compared to its neighbors'. This study estimates the impact on such institutions as school districts and manufacturers. The higher prices and lost jobs must be weighed against any potential benefits.
Flawed studies and ignorance about North Carolina air quality have given lawmakers and the general public an inaccurate picture of trends in ground-level ozone, or "smog," in some cases exaggerating public exposure by a factor of 10. This study reexamines air-quality data from monitors across the state, concluding that exposure to dangerous ozone levels is surprisingly rare - and is dropping even without passage of the proposed "Clean Smokestacks" legislation.
North Carolina's approach to economic development policy has failed, with the state’s high tax burden, lack of industrial diversity, and hostility to entrepreneurial effort contributing to a painful decline in employment and competitiveness. Public policymakers should rethink their reliance on central-planning models and schemes to subsidize specific businesses or regions. Instead, the state should lower taxes and avoid costly regulatory mistakes like the "Clean Smokestacks" bill.
By the Numbers 2002: What Government Costs in North Carolina Cities and Counties is a publication of the Center for Local Innovation, a division of the John Locke Foundation. Its purpose is to inform North Carolinians about their local governments and promote debate and discussion about the future of city and county fiscal policy in North Carolina. It is not intended to advance or impede legislation before local, state, or federal lawmaking bodies.
The Southern Appalachian Mountain Initiative (SAMI) is a consortium of eight Southeastern states, including North Carolina, and several federal agencies. It is now beginning to publish its research, more than a decade in the making, and will likely help to shape the debate on air quality for years. State policymakers should be cautious in interpreting SAMI data and analyses, however, due to troubling signs that it may not be looking at both sides of the regulatory equation.
According to state economists, North Carolina will face another budget deficit in FY 2001-02 of between $450 million and $900 million. The state's economy, weighted down by high taxes and poor public services, continues to lag behind the rest of the country. Unlike last year, policymakers cannot exempt such big-ticket items as Floyd relief, tobacco-settlement funds, universities, Medicaid, and bonds from scrutiny - and they should consider repealing last year's tax hikes.
Responding to Gov. Jim Hunt's call for $830 million in emergency hurricane relief, state lawmakers have nearly drained the state's rainy day fund. Calls for state tax hikes or a new borrowing binge have only been put off until the 2000 legislative session. But state leaders have no one to blame for the coming budget crisis but themselves. As national data reveal, North Carolina has hiked spending far more rapidly than the average state with little regard for the long-term impact.
A report released last week by the North Carolina Progress Board contained hundreds of long-term goals for the state. But the text was overshadowed by the comments of board member and UNC-W Chancellor James Leutze, who said the report showed North Carolina would never make it to the top tier of states without tax increases. Leutze's remarks were ill-timed and ill-informed but reflect the conventional wisdom about taxes and social progress. It’s wrong.
State lawmakers are being asked to tap the rainy day fund to finance hurricane relief. They should look more closely at the details of the administration proposal. It provides large windfalls to businesses, farmers, homeowners, and others far beyond what is needed to alleviate immediate suffering and repair public infrastructure. A relief plan reflecting better priorities could be financed with budget savings, so the rainy day fund could be used to repay $240 million in illegal taxes.
North Carolina's 1998-99 state budget grew by between 10 percent and 11 percent (depending on the measurement used) compared with the national average for state budget growth of only 5.4 percent. This follows a similar pattern last year. Growth in spending on Medicaid and education fueled North Carolina's exceptional budget increase. Overall, North Carolina spends more of its budget on education and correction, and less on Medicaid, than the average state. This mostly reflects differences in responsibilities given to local government.
Author Jon Sanders studies professor salaries across the United States and finds that the pay of North Carolina's college and university professors, when adjusted for cost of living, is comparable to the pay of faculty in other states. (Not available online.)
As leaders of the N.C. General Assembly discuss the possibility of a special session in December, preliminary indications are that appropriate state spending for hurricane relief will be far lower than expected. The Hunt administration's emergency request for $1.8 billion from Congress was inflated and its assumptions unrealistic. For government infrastructure and aid to those without other access to relief, total cost will not exceed state funds already available for next year.
North Carolina's dramatic election on November 7 selected a slate of federal, state, and local leaders, but slim margins and a focus on personalities and name recognition gave few winners a clear mandate on issues. Polls taken before and after the vote consistently found an electorate that was fiscally conservative and favorable to increased consumer choice in such areas as health care, education, and Social Security. Policymakers should seek consensus on these critical issues.
Three new studies should give North Carolina policymakers pause about the state's current economic development policy. A Kenan Institute survey of international firms throws cold water on the notion that selective tax breaks for big business are an effective means of creating jobs. Along with two other reports, it suggests a different growth agenda: improve core public services such as roads and schools, tackle electricity restructuring, and reduce and reform taxes for everyone.
The lengthy budget negotiations between House and Senate this year resulted in a compromise that gave the Senate its spending priorities this year and the House its tax cuts in future years. Overall, when accounted for correctly, the state General Fund budget will top $13.1 billion in FY 1998-99, representing an 11 percent increase from last year. Spending growth outweighs tax cuts in FY 1998-99 by a ratio of 25 to 1 — but the picture improves somewhat in the out years, when House-sought cuts in sales and inheritance taxes are phased in.
A new six-county study of Smart Start shows little benefit for most children once they reach school. Coupled with the results of three other studies released since early 1998, these findings make the case for significant reform in the state's approach to early childhood policy. Smart Start should be reformed to 1) provide direct assistance to disadvantaged preschoolers and 2) give North Carolina families more resources with which to improve their children's readiness for school.
Summary: The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has proposed a capital spending plan calling for nearly $5 billion over the next decade to modernize and expand the system. To pay for it, UNC wants the authority to raise funds by the issuance of two kinds of bonds that would not be subject to voter approval. While there is undeniable need to renovate academic buildings, taking care of the worst needs over the next four years would cost about $1.1 billion and could be handled through the existing budget process if repair and renovation were made the top university priority. The need for a large-scale construction program is dubious and does not require the use of non-voter-approved bonds.
State lawmakers will consider today a revised tax and spending plan for the 2001-03 biennium that promises to shove an already teetering economy, buffeted by layoffs and the prospect of war, into a full-blown and painful recession. Its massive tax hike will fuel a healthy increase in wasteful state spending and help to push the state’s tax burden well above that of Massachusetts, California, and all the Southeastern states — and higher than the national average for the first time.
The ghastly terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington will have overwhelmingly negative consequences for the nation’s economy, despite the foolish suggestions of some that it will result in a net stimulus. North Carolina’s economy promises to be particularly hard-hit by troop deployments and faltering investor and consumer confidence. Now is the time for state leaders to dedicate themselves to strengthening the economy, not weakening it through massive tax hikes.
Gov. Mike Easley and other proponents are reportedly preparing to resurrect the idea of a state lottery for North Carolina. The case for this regressive and unpredictable source of revenue has, if anything, weakened in recent months, as other states with lotteries have experienced significant revenue shortfalls. The fact remains that Easley is overestimating the lottery’s potential revenue, thus creating the risk of additional tax increases in the future to make up the difference.
North Carolinians deserve a complete and accurate picture of how their public schools are doing relative to rigorous national and international academic standards. The state's current accountability system, the ABCs of Public Education, is a good first step but needs improvement to increase the reliability and usefulness of information provided to parents and taxpayers.
North Carolina's public school leaders are touting rising scores on state tests to prove that things aren't as bad as critics complain. However, the current method of calculating school performance misleads the public. The emphasis on "growth" shifts attention from true student achievement to a manufactured "feel-good" measure.